By BRADEN LAMMERS
Officials envision a sliver of a downtown Jeffersonville street linked to the Big Four Bridge project as a golden path to future economic development.
“It’s one of the smaller projects we have going on for the Big Four Station and the Bridge Four Bridge, but it’s one of the most important projects that we have,” Redevelopment Director Rob Waiz said Thursday during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Chestnut Street reconstruction project, which will create a gateway from the Big Four pedestrian and bicycle bridge landing to historic downtown Jeffersonville. “The reason it’s so important ... we want to make sure it’s very inviting [and people] want to come on down and visit historic downtown Jeffersonville.”
If a red carpet could be rolled out for prospective businesses, Chestnut Street would be it, as officials see the one-block stretch of the project as an essential showcase to lure commercial investment.
“It’s going to be a visual cue when you’re coming off the Big Four Bridge that there’s something special just feet away from here,” said Jay Ellis, executive director of Jeffersonville Main Street, Inc.
Jeffersonville Planning Director Shane Corbin said the revamped streetscape will create a seamless transition from the end of the Big Four Bridge ramp at Chestnut and Pearl streets to Spring Street.
The city received a $250,000 Main Street Revitalization grant from the state to help pay for the road project that will include the widening of the road, bike lanes, sidewalks, new lighting, bike racks, benches and new trees. The Jeffersonville Redevelopment Commission and Urban Enterprise Zone are each contributing $128,619 to the project.
Chestnut Street will be closed for 60 days during the reconstruction, and the full scope of the project is expected to be completed in late October or early November and coincide with the opening of the Indiana side of the Big Four Bridge ramp.
The original date for Indiana’s ramp to open was in April, but delays largely tied to a change in the lighting plan for the ramp have pushed the anticipated contract completion date to Oct. 31.
“In some ways I almost think the delay in the Big Four is a blessing in disguise [so] we can get this done first,” Corbin said.
BRINGING IN BUSINESS
With the completion of one side of the Big Four Bridge ramp and the anticipated completion of the Indiana ramp, Ellis said more interest is being generated for businesses to locate in the city.
“We’ve seen a pretty dramatic increase of the number of meetings and calls of people wanting to have start-ups,” he said. “I think it’s going to have a phenomenal effect,” he said of gateway construction.
And the purpose will be to drive those visitors into the shops and restaurants within the historic district.
“If those people are going to be coming across the bridge, we want to bring them [in] and showcase downtown Jeffersonville,” Ellis said. “This project is going to reinforce and beautify a critical link between the Big Four Bridge and Spring Street. Thousands of people, when they come off that bridge, this will be their gateway to historic downtown Jeffersonville.”
A recent count of users entering on the Kentucky side of the Big Four Bridge during a nine-day period showed that 45,000 pedestrians and 4,500 bicyclists accessed the bridge.
Because of the anticipated flood of people, business in the area is gearing up. Pearl Street Treats, a frozen yogurt shop, is planned near the foot of the Big Four Bridge ramp. Red Yeti, a brew pub at the corner of Chestnut and Spring streets, is expected to open this fall, and the town is still in discussions with two other restaurants to locate in the area.
A business previously reported in the News and Tribune, The Olive Leaf Bistro, is still in discussions with the city to locate in the former Brad Sprigler Designs Building at 130 Riverside Dr. Another new restaurant, being called Big Four Burgers, is expected to locate at 134 Spring Street, formerly Third Base Tavern. The Jeffersonville Historic Preservation Commission approved a rehabilitation plan for the burger restaurant at its meeting Monday.
Ellis added there is also a bike rental company that is seriously considering locating at the foot of the bridge.
“It means a lot and we’re putting our money where we’ve had 200 years of investment,” he said of the business interest and increased attention downtown. “This is the heart of the community.”
Additional work around the landing includes the construction of the Big Four Landing park.
Corporation Attorney Les Merkley said a meeting will be held Monday, July 15, to open the bids for the city’s Big Four Landing project. The plan is to create a two-block park surrounding the foot of the Big Four Bridge that extends from Maple Street to Market Street.
Mayor Mike Moore said in a news release — he was unable to attend the groundbreaking — that the Big Four Landing and Chestnut Street are designed to encourage visitors into Jeffersonville and attract future investment.
“Revitalizing Chestnut Street is essential if we are going to maximize the presence of the Big Four Bridge,” he said in the release. “We are on the verge of great things in our downtown.”
In addition, the gateway will be a starting point for a plan to improve alternate modes of transportation throughout the city.
“For the bike/ped[estrian] plan a lot of it’s going to pick up and spread out from there,” Corbin, the city’s planning director, said of Chestnut Street.
He said that one of the main recommendations of the city’s bicycle and pedestrian plan, which was presented to residents at a meeting Thursday night, was to create a bicycle boulevard on Chestnut on the north side of Spring Street. A bicycle boulevard is a way to limit the amount of traffic on a road while still allowing vehicle traffic, but making it safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.
WHEN CONSTRUCTION STARTS
Pace Contracting LLC President Tom Wood said Chestnut Street will be closed for 60 days for its reconstruction and he expects the road to reopen by Sept. 15. The entire project is expected to be completed in late October or early November.
The most significant closure during the 60-day period will be in effect the first week. The intersection of Chestnut Street and Spring Street will be closed starting Monday, July 15. The intersection is slated to reopen Monday, July 22. During the closure a turnaround will be in place at the public parking lot off of Spring Street before the Chestnut Street intersection, across from Horner Novelty. For vehicles traveling northbound on Spring Street, away from the Ohio River, the road will be closed at Preservation Place, an alley between Spring and Pearl streets before the Chestnut Street intersection.
Chestnut Street, from Pearl to Spring streets, will remain closed through the duration of the project.